|Goal! Tepper's MLS quest ends with a franchise for Charlotte|
|North America's top league to add 30th team|
|Published Thursday, December 12, 2019 8:08 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Major League Soccer, which marks its 25th anniversary next year, will announce a new franchise for Charlotte – its 30th – next week. The Charlotte franchise will play at Bank of America Stadium and train at the former Eastland Mall site in East Charlotte.|
It took David Tepper for Charlotte to land a Major League Soccer team.
A “special announcement” from the Carolina Panthers owner — who is worth an estimated $12 billion – Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and “special guests” will take place at the Mint Museum Uptown on Dec. 17 at 10 a.m. Florida-based Vista Worldlink, a media company that works with MLS, filed a permit on Dec. 5 to park production trucks Dec. 16-17 at 500 South Tryon St.—the Mint’s Uptown location. In a Nov. 21 letter to league commissioner Don Garber, Lyles described the relationship between the city and Tepper Sports with words like “collaborative,” outlining their “plans together,” which include:
- Locating the team’s headquarters and practice facilities on the former Eastland Mall site 7 miles from Bank of America Stadium;
- Modifications to Bank of America Stadium to support soccer;
- Community benefits that will connect the franchise with residents across Charlotte and “lift up youth sports in our communities and schools;”
- Setting aside $110 million in hospitality funds “to help ensure a successful venture over the next many years;”
- Building out an entertainment district connecting Center City and the Gateway District.
City Council has not taken a formal vote on the $110 million, as three new members were sworn in earlier this month. However, the panel meets the night before the official announcement.
The city has been at a loss with how to utilize the former Eastland Mall site. Officials are working with Crosland East as the master developer for the property.
“We are thrilled that the Eastland site continues to be included in the conversations surrounding MLS,” Crosland Southeast Managing Partner Tim Sittema said in a statement. “The MLS headquarters, practice fields and community fields would be transformational for the Eastland area and are fully compatible with our vision for the redevelopment.”
Said council member James Mitchell, who chairs the Economic Development Committee: “It’s a perfect fit. We have an opportunity to do something that is a destination for the Eastside, which we’ve been waiting for a long time.”
Eight potential team names were filed on Dec. 6 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: Charlotte FC, Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Fortune FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, Charlotte Athletic FC, Charlotte Town FC, Carolina Gliders FC and All Carolina FC.
The MLS team would be Charlotte’s third major league sports franchise, joining the NFL Panthers and NBA Charlotte Hornets. The soccer team would share Bank of America Stadium with the Panthers, following a model established the Atlanta, Seattle and New England markets.
Tepper moved swiftly in his pursuit of MLS. Prior to purchasing the Panthers in July 2018, he indicated interest in bringing a franchise to Charlotte and announced discussions between the league and Panthers organization in January. Shortly after, the Panthers put out a call through Charlotte Soccer Academy for two focus groups on Feb. 6. RSVP capacity for two 90-minute sessions filled almost immediately at a private research firm in South Charlotte.
In July, a five-year deal, which Panthers President Tom Glick described as the “first of its kind,” was struck to keep Charlotte as a tournament stop for the International Champions Cup, a summer showcase for top-flight European teams. That agreement was struck prior to a meeting between Tepper and MLS officials in New York. Ten days later, Tepper’s bid secured a multi-year title sponsor with Ally Financial as the founding and primary partner of the team, with the company’s name emblazoned on the jersey.
A closed-door council session in September addressed Tepper’s request for alterations to Bank of America Stadium.
Charlotte would be the fourth team announced in 2019, joining Austin Texas, St. Louis, Missouri and Sacramento, California. Austin will not pay an expansion fee, as owner Anthony Precourt still retains the Precourt Sports Venture rights to the team he formerly owned and operated—Columbus Crew.
Austin’s $242-million 20,000-seat stadium is privately funded. St. Louis and Sacramento each paid a $200 million expansion fee. The St. Louis stadium is $250 million, with a 22,500-seat capacity. Sacramento’s $300 million stadium will seat 20,100. Tepper is expected to pay over $300 million in franchise fees.
MLS staff will attend the College Cup semifinals and final in Cary Dec. 13-15. The league announced yesterday it will host the inaugural 40-player MLS College Showcase in Raleigh during the same window.
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